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November 3, 2016

Is Vitamin Water Good For You?

vitamin waterIs Vitamin Water good for you? The company behind it claims that it is, but nutritionists beg to differ. Read more if you want to discover the dark side of Vitamin Water, the beverage advertised as an oasis of health for those who consume it.

What’s Vitamin Water?

Vitamin Water hit the shelves in 2000 under the guise of the company Energy Brands, a subsidiary of Coca Cola. It’s a type of mineralized water packed with vitamins, which is supposed to help those who drink it with a variety of minor health issues. Among the things this wondrous beverage is supposed to do, we count energy boosts, mood improvements, and dehydration fixes.

The most notable thing about Vitamin Water, though, remains the fact that it comes in an impressive variety. For about every purpose of the drink, there is a certain flavor. Despite the multitude of fruity tastes, there is no actual fruit juice involved in Vitamin Water.





fruit punch

(vitamin B and C + potassium)   marketed as Revive in North America



(vitamin C + taurine)


tropical citrus

vitamin B + guarana



vitamin C + vitamins b5 b6 b12



vitamin B, C and E + zinc + calcium


acai-blueberry pomegranate

vitamin B and C + triple antioxidants



vitamin C + calcium


lemon tea

vitamin C + vitamin E


tropical mango

(vitamin E, B5, B6, B12, electrolytes, vitamin C)

Go-Go (Zero)

mixed berry

(vitamin E + ribose)

Rise (Zero)


(vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12 vitamin C + electrolytes)



“8 key nutrients from a – zinc”

XXX (Zero)

acai-blueberry pomengranate


TABLE: Vitamin Water Flavors; Source: Wikipedia

The Birth And Growth Of Vitamin Water

Vitamin Water and Energy Brands itself don’t exactly have an extensive history. Founder of the company Darius Bikoff got the idea for the drink in 1996. Fearing that he was about to come down with a cold, he tried to boost up his energy levels by taking some Vitamin C and mineral water.

Perhaps through a spark of inspiration, he wondered what it would be like if he threw both of these things together. Using his personal savings, he then went on and founded Energy Brands, going on to eventually sell well-known products such as Vitamin Water and the likewise famous Smartwater.

Vitamin Water Ingredients

There isn’t really a way around it: there are some major controversies surrounding Vitamin Water. Most of them steer from the ingredients of the drink, which seemingly clash with what the marketing campaigns claim. Its main ingredients are the fortified vitamins that allegedly provide the nutritional factors and ingredients added for flavor purposes.

According to Coca Cola Product Facts, below are the nutritional markers and ingredients found in one unit of Vitamin Water.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 120
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Potassium 180mg 5%
Total Carbohydrates 33g 11%
Sugars 32g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A 25% Vitamin C 150%
Calcium 10% Vitamin E 25%
Niacin 100% Vitamin B6 100%
Vitamin B12 100% Pantothenic Acid 100%


  • reverse osmosis water;
  • crystalline fructose;
  • cane sugar;
  • less than 0.5% of citric acid;
  • potassium phosphate;
  • calcium lactate and magnesium lactate (electrolyte sources);
  • natural flavors;
  • vitamin C (ascorbic acid);
  • gum acacia;
  • vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin E (alpha-Tocopheryl acetate), vitamin B5 (calcium pantothenate);
  • glycerol ester of rosin;
  • vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin;
  • beta-Carotene;
  • modified food starch.

The CDC has this publication that reviews the function of water soluable vitamins.

The Vitamin Water Marketing Controversy

The National Consumers League believes that Glaceau’s marketing campaign for Vitamin Water is “untrue and deceiving.” One of the things that captured their attention was the fact that the Vitamin Water is nutritious, so we need nothing else.

Even though a bottle contains 100% of the essential daily Vitamin C intake we need, that doesn’t shake off the fact that the drink contains copious amounts of sugar.

And, thus, a paradox is born: how can Vitamin Water be a nutritious choice when it also contains so much sugar?

Another thing that sparked controversy was the marketing slogan which read “flu shots are so last year.” This, understandably, stirred up the public opinion, specifically the one of experts. “These advertising claims are not only untrue, they constitute a public health menace,” declared NCL executive director Sally Greenberg. Let’s just try to envision how disastrous it would be if consumers took this slogan to heart and stopped getting flu shots just because the campaign says so.

It’s one of the gravest forms of misinforming. Greenberg continues, “Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; the last thing people need is sugar water with vitamins you could get from eating a healthy diet, or by taking a vitamin pill.”

Coca Cola seems to have a dark history with its bottled mineral water. Dasani, a previous attempt at a type of purified bottled water, ended prematurely after a marketing campaign worth $7 million. Upon inspection, it was revealed that the purification process left the water with twice the amount of cancer-inducing bromate than legality allowed.

The Sugar Controversy

Obviously, the biggest problems stemmed from the fact that the sugar levels in Vitamin Water exceed any acceptable levels. Vitamin Water’s own website specifies the fact that a bottle from any of their categories (except for the Zero line) contains between 31 and 32 grams of sugar. Knowing that 4 grams of sugar amount to one teaspoon, this would mean a single bottle contains 7 teaspoons of sugar!

If the numbers themselves aren’t enough to paint an image of why this is a terrible thing, let’s make a comparison. A 12-ounce Coke can contains 39 grams of sugar, approximately 9 tablespoons. A mere teaspoon and a half stands between the sugar levels of a soda pop and a supposedly nutritious bottle of water. In that regard, Vitamin Water resembles a bottle of soda much more than it resembles a bottle of water.

If someone fell to the misleading claims made by the marketing campaign, they might even try swapping their normal water for Vitamin Water. The moment more than one bottle come into play, we’d be treading dangerously close to a spike in sugar intake beyond the recommended levels.

But we’ll expand more on this as we dive into an extensive answer to the question behind this article. Is Vitamin Water good for you? No, it’s not. And here is why.

#1 High Levels Of Sugar AND Fructose

Let’s circle back around to the biggest source of controversies. All the statistics regarding the amount of sugar found in a bottle of Vitamin Water are one thing, but they become even more alarming with better context. For instance, “sugar” is a rather general term. The actual sugar type found in Vitamin Water varies from one country to another. Some countries sweeten their Vitamin Water with cane sugar. Others, the United States included, pump their beverages with crystalline fructose. There are several names of sugar that you may see on a ingredient label so be sure to read them before purchasing any food or drink.

From a scientific perspective, fructose is actually the most harmful component of sugar and the one that gives us the most headaches (and health issues). Crystalline fructose has in its composition nearly 98% fructose while cane sugar balances out glucose and fructose in a fifty-fifty ratio.

This brings back to the main issue: a bottle of Vitamin Water in the USA contains nearly as much fructose as a bottle of Coke.

The gap between these two is filled by the fact that Vitamin Water has an almost exclusive fructose percentage. In the case of Coke, however, it only makes up about half of its composition. The bottom line is that it’s the ultimate paradox to claim Vitamin Water is healthy when it’s almost on par with a soda pop in terms of sugar found within.

#2 Excess Sugar Is The Source Of All Kinds Of Diseases

From this point onward, none of this should be news to us. We’ve heard multiple times before of the harmful effects too much sugar can have on our health. Nutritionists recommend that sugars shouldn’t represent more than 10% of our daily calorie intake with the ideal upper limit halting at 5%. This means that for every 2500-calorie diet, we shouldn’t consume more than 62 grams of sugar.

Is Vitamin Water Good For You?

Remember how many grams of sugar one bottle of Vitamin Water amounts for? A single unit manages to hit the recommended upper limit and represents 50% of the absolute upper limit. With just two bottles of Vitamin Water, we’ve hit the 62 grams of sugar we mustn’t go beyond of.

Added sugars are the seed for a multitude of chronic health issues, most notably diabetes and obesity. Other afflictions, however, include:

  • tooth decay;
  • heart disease;
  • metabolic syndrome;
  • high blood cholesterol;
  • elevated blood pressure;
  • increased insulin resistance;
  • fatty liver disease.

#3 Vitamin Water Is The Enemy Of Weight Loss

Is Vitamin Water Good For You?Simply going by pure assumption, anyone who readily jumps into a Vitamin Water-based regime is probably seeking to improve their health, right? After all, their campaign revolves around promoting the seemingly nutritious angle to the beverage. Under these circumstances, it’s not difficult to imagine there are some people who are pairing up their Vitamin Water intake with various weight loss methods.

The moment you’ve done that, you’ve essentially doomed your weight loss program.

We’ve already established that Vitamin Water is essentially water with the properties and aftermaths of your average soda pop and sugary beverage. These kinds of drinks are proven causes for an array of health issues, but most notably obesity.

When you drink a sugary beverage, your body does NOT compensate for the extra calorie intake that comes with it. In fact, all of the unwanted calories and fats pile up on top of the calories from all the foods you eat around them. In other words, you’re shooting your own foot. The best kind of thing to drink while on a diet is still water, just not this kind of pseudo-waters with soda properties.

#4 The Vitamins Are Synthetic

Someone may argue, “Yes, but what about the vitamins? Wouldn’t they compensate for the high levels of sugar?” Absolutely not.

For starters, Vitamin Water contains almost exclusively synthetic, man-made vitamins and not the ones that you can easily find in natural form. They’re not essentially harmful (for now, read below for details), but they ARE pretty… useless. Because of their artificial chemical composition, your body doesn’t recognize these vitamins and ends up disposing of them in the shape of waste.

What’s most baffling is that nearly all of the vitamins you can find in any of the Vitamin Water bottles are ones we already have at our disposal. Vitamins B and C, for example, are extremely present in any Average Joe’s diet. All of the nutrients Vitamin Water claims it can give you, you can simply take through foods. And even then, if you are in dire need of other sources for various reasons, you can always take supplements.

#5 Even Too Much Vitamins Can Be Harmful

Let’s say that you DO manage to absorb some of the synthetic vitamins your body is struggling to recognize. That’s not necessarily a good thing either. Nutrition is all about treading on thin ice: too little of something is bad and too much of something is even worse.

Vitamins B and C are most present in Vitamin Water. Incidentally, they’re also the ones most common in our diets, which means that very few people suffer from Vitamin B or C deficiency. As a result, through Vitamin Water, we’re essentially giving our bodies an overdose of vitamins. It’s even worse for Vitamins A and E. When consumed in excess, they can also trigger premature deaths.

The worst part is that you don’t need to chug down three-four bottles of Vitamin Water every day for the effects to start showing. Don’t forget that a good chunk of these nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals are also present in the food we eat. Sometimes a single bottle is enough to pile an excess of vitamins on top of what we’re already getting through alimentation.

Bottom Line

Is Vitamin Water good for you? Given its high sugar levels, the artificiality of its vitamins, the deceit of the marketing campaign, and the potential health risks? It’s safe to say that you’d better stick with some healthy fruits and vegetables and a bottle of normal, pure water.

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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